Political leaders, war veterans and members of the public gathered outside
Czech Radio’s Prague headquarter on Saturday to mark the 73rd anniversary
of the Prague Uprising against Nazi rule at the end of WWII.
The radio station was the focal point of the uprising and the site of one of the biggest clashes with Nazi forces as citizens came to defend the building against German attempts to retake it. Over 100 people died defending the radio building and hundreds of others fell at the barricades that went up around Prague. Altogether, an estimated 12,000 people were killed around the country.
The commemorative ceremony outside Czech Radio was attended by the Speaker of the Senate Milan Stech, Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová, members of the Union of Freedom Fighters and others. Mr. Stech said that although the uprising had come in the last days of the war it had prevented the Nazis from destroying the historic core of the Czech capital.
The Night Wolves, a Russian motorcycle club known for its staunch
nationalism and close ties to Vladimir Putin, is making several appearances
in the Czech Republic in connection with the end-of-war celebrations. They
attended a commemorative ceremony in Silesia on Friday and are expected to
return to the Czech Republic on Sunday.
The Russian bikers’ presence in the country is highly controversial. They claim they are paying homage to Red Army soldiers who died liberating Czechoslovakia, but critics see their rides as politically provocative and Russian propaganda.
Thousands of people joined Saturday’s march through Prague in support of
legalisation of marihuana in the Czech Republic. The ‘Million Marihuana
March’ is an annual event culminating with a happening on Stvanice Island
that includes the sale of technical marihuana products, concerts and
Marihuana is legal for the treatment of certain medical conditions but possession of more than a small amount is still an offence.
Freedom celebrations continue in the West Bohemian town of Plzen, marking
the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the city by General Patton’s
Army. Thousands of people on Saturday welcomed the Convoy of Liberty, with
its 220 historic military vehicles, which is traditionally one of the
highlights of the celebrations. Seven US and Belgian war veterans who
helped liberate the city are attending the celebrations this year.
The Liberation Festival in the city traditionally lasts for several days and includes street happenings, concerts and the chance to see a reconstructed US military camp from that period. The celebrations continue on Sunday at the town’s memorial to the US army with an event called Thank You, America!
The Czech Foreign Ministry has ruled out the possibility that the nerve
agent tested in the Czech Republic could have been used in the attack
against Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.
The Foreign Ministry issued the statement in response to President Zeman’s claim that a minute amount of the nerve-gas Novichok had been produced and tested in the Czech Republic. The president was citing a military intelligence report.
The Foreign Ministry said that a few millilitres of a nerve gas of the Novichok family labelled A-230 was produced, tested, and destroyed by the Czech Military Research Institute in Brno. “The nerve-paralysing poison used in the U.K. attack is called A-234 and is therefore a different variant than the one tested by the Czech military institute for purposes of defence" the ministry statement said.
It moreover stressed that the substance tested in Brno was immediately disposed of by the laboratory and is not stored anywhere, as was the case with the A230 substance. The Brno institute functions with the approval of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Meanwhile, President Zeman has come under fire for disclosing classified information from a military intelligence report. According to Czech law this is punishable by up to three years in prison, but the president has immunity from prosecution and can only be impeached on grounds of treason.
Foreign Minister Martin Stropnický is preparing to exit high politics and
become the next Czech ambassador to Israel, news site aktualne.cz reported
Friday, citing sources in ANO and the current government. Mr Stropnický,
who was defence minister prior and has served in diplomacy before (in the
Vatican, Italy, and Portugal) is an actor by profession.
He was named foreign minister in the current government in resignation in December of last year.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Michaela Lagronová said the ministry would issue a statement only when the supposed candidate received his credentials.
Nerve agents such as the poison Novichok are synthesized in the Czech
Republic as part of anti-chemical defence program, the Czech Defence
Ministry said in a statement issued on Friday. The maximum amount produced
is several micrograms and the substance is destroyed immediately after
testing, the ministry added.
The ministry also said that while substances such as Novichok were potentially poisonous chemicals, they were used for testing detection and defence capabilities and the training of the country’s anti-chemical unit. Such substances, it stressed, were synthesized under the strictest controls and security. It called the chance of extraction from special labs “zero”.
It is thought that between 50 to 100 grams of Novichok was used against the Skripals in the attack in Salisbury.
Czech President Miloš Zeman has come under fire from political opponents
following an interview on TV Barrandov on Thursday in which he maintained,
according to a military intelligence report, that a small amount of the
deadly nerve agent Novichok was produced in the Czech Republic.
Novichok was used in a brazen attack on British soil against a former Russian double agent and his daughter earlier this year. Great Britain says the evidence points to Russia.
A second Czech civil intelligence report contradicted the findings and the president’s words but Zeman said he preferred the military version. Petr Gazdík, the head of the smallest party in the lower house, STAN, tweeted a tough response, suggesting that Mr Zeman could easily be considered an agent of Moscow. He said the president not only contradicted the country’s foreign ministry but also provided fuel for Russian media.
The president has been accused of being a vocal supporter of Russia and apologist for Mr Putin on numerous occasions in the past, including the recent election where a FEMEN woman activist stripped to the waist and declared the president was Mr Putin’s “slut”.
The head of the Civic Democrats, Petr Fiala echoed Mr Gazdík’s words, saying the president had hurt the country’s position and only fueled Russian propaganda.
Czech police have detained and charged three Czechs with human trafficking
and other criminal offences. The trio, two males and one female, are
suspected of having preyed on poor people in Most, North Bohemia, promising
legal and well-paid employment in Great Britain, but allegedly brutalizing
them upon their arrival in Manchester and taking away their passports.
The spokesman for the National Centre Against Organised Crime Jaroslav Ibehej said they were made to do numerous tasks. At least some of them were forced into prostitution and sex online.
All three of the suspects have been remanded in custody. Detectives charge that the three were involved in criminal activity between the years 2012 and 2017, and possibly longer. The trio brought at least 15 people to Great Britain, four of them women.
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